Mini Season: Major Cold

my proxy bathes
in the cold water...
sparrow
-Kobayashi Issa

Issa’s haiku is the perfect way to start our exploration into the mini season of Major Cold.  This season is the last mini season of the 72 Season calendar and runs from January 21 – February 03. The micro-seasons contained within this mini season are:

  • The Giant Butterbur Flowers (Jan. 21 – Jan.24)
  • The Mountain Stream Freezes Over (Jan 25 – Jan 29)
  • The Chicken Lays Her First Eggs (Jan 30 – Feb 03)

The micro-seasons were established in 1685 by Japanese astronomer Shibuka Shunkai.  Each micro-season lasts about five days and each one highlights a slight change in the natural environment.  The micro-seasons are specific to the climate of Japan.  However, just because the calendar focuses on Japan doesn’t mean that it isn’t applicable to others.  They can become a starting point for a personal exploration into the world around you. 

bird in snow
Photo by Isak Fransson on Pexels.com

Major Cold

As the season’s name suggests, we are in the coldest time of the year. 

In Vermont, January’s average overnight low temperature of 9.3 degrees Fahrenheit.  February, which is the second coldest month, has an average overnight temperature of 10.9 degrees Fahrenheit.  For many people this cold weather forces them to stay inside and refrain from any outdoor activities.  However, some people they take this as a challenge to engage in winter training.

Kangeiko

Kangeiko, which translates to winter training, is a traditional martial arts practice. This type of training occurs early in the morning during the winter and is used to build mental toughness. The theory behind Kangeiko is that by training in the harsh cold you will strengthen your fighting spirit and be able to work through any inner weaknesses that keep you from performing at your best.   

The practice of kangeiko, although associated with martial arts, finds its roots in the spiritual practices of Shugendo (a Japanese specific religion that blends Shinto and Buddhist practices) and some sects of Buddhism. Primarily practiced by mountain ascetics, monks would either bathe in cold river water or stand under cold waterfalls.  This cold water bathing practice is known as kanshugyo, or kangyo.  Kanshugyo is said to be a demonstration of piety and a way to hone mental abilities.(1,2) 

Ice and Water Fall
Photo by Wendy Wei on Pexels.com

Cold Water Therapy

The kanshugyo practice was originally practiced as a way to strengthen the mind. However, it has some physical benefits that are being tested by athletes and health researchers. 

Scientists are currently studying the benefits of cold water therapy, which is the practice of using water below 59 degrees Fahrenheit to treat health conditions and stimulate the immune system.  Some of the claims about cold water therapy still need more research, but 10 benefits have been scientifically verified.(3)

Cold Water Therapy has been shown to:

  • Boost the immune system
  • Improve circulation
  • Deepen sleep
  • Boost energy levels
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Improve metabolic function
  • Improve mood.

Wim Hof, the creator of the Wim Hof Method, uses cold water therapy as one of his three pillars of practice toward better health and realization of an individual’s full potential.  The other pillars of his method include breath work and a commitment to the practice. Wim Hof’s training method has been clinically studied, and practitioners of his method have been shown to be able to control their sympathetic nervous system and activate regions in the brain responsible for pain suppression.(4) Wim Hof is committed to sharing this benefits of his practice, and you can read the results of the scientific studies on his website.

Wim Hof IG post, sitting on snow
Photo Credit: Wim Hof

Haiku about Cold Water

Haikus about cold water rituals proved challenging to locate. However, I was able to find four poems that reflected on water in the winter. I was also able to contributed one of my own to this list.

waterfall in winter -
no sunrise, no sunset
for this massive rock
-Nozawa Setsuko
In the wild winter wind
the voice of the water cracks
falling across the rocks
-Yosa Buson
Cold wintry wind —
Breaking over rocks
The voice of water.
-Yosa Buson
diving in
icicles on the nose
soothing the soul
-Mark S

Resources:

  1. Kangeiko: Japanese-wiki-corpus.org
  2. Kangeiko: Taidoblog.com
  3. Cold Water Therapy: Healthline.com
  4. Wim Hof Method: Wim Hof.com

To learn more about Wim Hof and the potential benefits of environmental conditioning check out Scott Carney’s What Doesn’t Kill Us: How Freezing Water, Extreme Altitude, and Environmental Conditioning Will Renew Our Lost Evolutionary Strength.

Looking for something else to read? Naturalist Weekly also has several curated book lists of poetry, haiku, and books featured on our blog. We are an affiliate of Bookshop.org and may receive a small commission if you purchase a book from Bookshop.org.

Naturalist Weekly runs on coffee and a passion for writing, and your donation will keep the coffee pot full and the content flowing. 


35 thoughts on “Mini Season: Major Cold

Add yours

    1. Hi Adele, I am glad that you enjoyed this! Yes, the cold is very much on my mind right now. I hope you are able to stay comfortable where you are this winter.

  1. I liked reading about the very cold micro-season, Mark and the physical and mental benefits of cold therapy. Also enjoyed the poetry and your contributing poem as well.

      1. caught red-handed 🙂 I had just started to dip my toe in,so to speak with a few seconds of cold shower at the end over arms and legs only, when I left for Ger2 months ago – now I have left momentum. In my favourite spa bath with mineral water, they have hot and cold pools which is great. Hope they will reopen one day, post-pandemic.

      2. I have heard about the spas that have the hot and cold baths where you can alternate. That might make it a little more fun. I have tried ending my showers with cold water. I am not so successful sometimes.

  2. Sorry this naked mammal won’t be sitting on an iceberg in skivvies anytime soon 😉 I enjoyed your post and your poetic offerings. I’m still following along with the 72 seasons on the phone app and am thoroughly enjoying it. (except for one recent ingredient in one of their recipes!)

    1. I would agree with you about sitting on the ice. It is not for me. It was -10 this morning and there wasn’t a piece of skin exposed to the elements when I went out for a walk.
      I am wondering which seasonal food you really didn’t like? Was it the Cod or the mustard-like greens?

  3. Are you telling me to go jump in a lake right now? I feel like you’re telling me to go jump in a lake. Hahaha. I could use the cool off after last night’s City Council’s workshop meeting thing. I got a moment of stage fright while speaking. My face gets so hot and red I feel like a fire-roasted tomato on a stick! I probably could have boiled cold water with my face at that point. Great post as always Mark! Thank you!

    1. Wow, that sounds like it was an intense meeting. I know that feeling when you can tell that your faces is starting to turn red. Maybe a dive in the lake might help? Not really suggesting, just saying I heard that it can help.
      I hope you were able to make some progress with the City Council and plant the seeds for a consultant position.

  4. My brother-in-law did the Wim Hof cold water therapy for a while. Now that I think of it, he stopped somewhere along the way and I’m not sure when that happened. Hmm. I know cold water is invigorating and has health benefits, but I haven’t yet been able to get myself to try it.

    1. I also tried the Wim Hof program for a little bit. I did the cold water shower piece and then the off season swimming. I agree that the cold water is supposed to be invigorating, but sometimes that just feels like unnecessary self punishment first things in the morning. Thanks for the comment.

  5. Re: “icicles on the nose” I remember when I lived up over 10,000 feet in Rocky Mountains in Colorado and stepped outside my woodstove heated cabin early one morning when it was about -25F and as I was wondering if my urine stream would freeze before hitting the ground I noticed that my nostril hairs had become tiny icycles. When I wiped my nose to stop them tickling they all broke away instantly.

    Tibetan yogis who practice tummo (tr. inner heat yoga) in order to demonstrate their skill exit their retreat huts and bathe in the icy Himalayan high mountain streams; then in order to dry themselves afterwards they must first dip their towels in the freezing waters and then generate enough heat in their hands to dry them off after which they can use the towels to dry the rest of their bodies.

    (I once found a video of a daoist qigong master in Malaysia who can light fires with the heat generated from his hands, so this is not just a Tibetan thing. The heat is directed from the kidney yang which determines length of life.)

    1. That is pretty amazing! I bet that is where Wim Hof got some of his inspiration for his work. I read some of Hof’s work and he says that he spent years and practicing skills and techniques from around the world until he was able to identify something that would work for him. Thank you so much for sharing this! Talk soon,

  6. Nice essay, Mark. My birthday is during the Major Cold mini-season (The Giant Butterbur Flowers micro-season). I don’t know if I like that or not! I’m familiar with athletic trainers using ice water to reduce or prevent inflammation. We didn’t use cold water treatment when I played football and basketball in high school (but that was a long time ago). The haiku were brilliant, including yours. Glad to see you using your poetry in your essays, and I hope it becomes a more regular thing. Well done, good sir! 🙂

    1. Hi Mike, I hope you have a wonderful birthday! I thought ice water baths were kind of common for football injuries. Not sure when that started though. Glad you enjoyed the haiku. I write frequently but usually just share on my Twitter feed. Twitter seems perfect for micro poetry! Thanks for the comment. Talk soon.

    1. Hi Sunra, Thanks you for the comment and visiting. I truly enjoy searching out the haikus that fit the seasons. Some are more difficult than others! Thanks again. Talk soon,

  7. Yes , I enjoyed the reading 👌🌷🙏but here no seasons, so from my
    Wordpress friends winter photos adding time I’m so admiring their
    Photos !! Here we can see snow in hill stations and sometimes
    Suddenly rain means some places can see the ice cubes falling 🧊
    How different our countries ,here now after two hours rain stopped .
    then sky so marvelous 🌷👌🙏Thank you for a lovely reply message 🙏😊

    1. Hi Thattamma, I agree that it is so interesting to learn about the different parts of the world. Being able to do this if definitely one of the benefits of the WordPress community. Talk soon,

  8. Catching up on my blog reading today, but we are in the major cold now here, with a significant snowfall expected to start tomorrow evening. I will top up the bird (I mean squirrel) feeder before nightfall tomorrow.

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